April 2011 - Vikingess Voyages

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kyoto Daytrips -Biking up to Kurama (鞍馬)

10:07:00 PM
At the moment my mother and grandmother are here in Kyoto on a two-weeks visit! 
Of course I wanted to take them with me on sightseeing to let them see as much of Kyoto as possible during the few days they are here.
But mostly I am busy with school, so I don't really have as much time to show them around as I would like. Luckily their hotel is central, so they cover most of Kyoto on foot on their own.

On Sunday however, I decided we should do something really special. Back in October I went to a place called Kurama (鞍馬), which is situated in the mountains north of Kyoto, to see the annual Fire-festival (火祭り) Kurama is famous for. In October I went there by bike, and I felt it was such a nice trip that I wanted to do it again, but this time in daylight. What else can I say; it was a great opportunity.

The last time my grandmother went cycling was around 40 years ago according to her own calculations, so I was a bit uncertain of whether or not we would make it all the way there.. But from last time I remembered that the roads weren't too steep, and it only took us about 1 1/2 hours to get there back then.
So me, Yuma, my mother and my grandmother set of in the morning heading for the mountain roads.

My grandmother, Yuma and my mother biking up to Kurama.

As you get closer to the mountain the roads gets smaller, but the nature is beautiful and there aren't that much traffic on the roads either.

 Arriving in the village of Kurama. The first thing we did was to head from there to Niomon (The gate of the Guardians) which is the entrance to the temple area in Kurama.

From the bottom of the Kurama temple area there is an information centre where they have a cable car to take you up in the mountain ( but of course it is possible to walk as well, if you follow another route;))
The Tahou-Tou Pagoda
 The cherry flowers in Kurama blooms a bit later than the ones in Kyoto itself, so luckily we had the chance to do a last, little hanami by the Tahou-tou pagoda.

My family had brought me some Freia Melkesjokolade-chocolate all the way from Norway, in addition to some (local) beer. Eventually this probably was 2011's last Hanami, at least for us..!

The biggest temple in Kurama, Honden.
A video I took showing shamisen being performed by the Honden temple.

 Back in the village, where cozy Japanese houses lay side by side.

 In the north of the village there is an Onsen too (Kurama Onsen 鞍馬温泉). It costs 1000 yen to get in, and if you have forgotten towels they do that as well.

My grandmother and mom by the entrance to the hot-spring.
Leaving the Onsen.
It only took us about 1 1/2 hour to get to Kurama from the city centre by bike. Though it is possible to get there by train as well it kind of adds to the experience to go there by bike, since there is a lot to see on the way there as well. The roads aren't too steep, and even my grandmother who is 66 years old seemed to have a good time. Besides this it is easy to find the place; once you get on the road leading north up the mountain there aren't really anywhere you can get lost, mostly you just follow the road.
I would absolutely recommend this as a day trip from Kyoto.

One annoying thing about buying food in Japan

8:29:00 PM
When you are going to buy things in Japanese stores - things that comes in nice big boxes and looks so delicious you can't avoid buying them - you should beware that you probably are being fooled.
Though it might seem like there is a lot in the box, that is rarely the case.

A box containing 16 ice cream
The fact is that at least 1/3 of the box is empty, and the size of the candy/ice cream etc in the box is laughably small.

I like to be able to predict more or less what I get when I buy something, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. No matter how big the box is, or how much it supposedly contains, I always get disappointed when I see the actual content.

Fair enough - when a box has 16 ice creams in it you shouldn't expect too much when it comes to the sizes.. But still, is this supposed to be an ice cream? I've never seen any ice cream this tiny x(

Who cares if there are 16 ice creams in the box when each of them are around 10 cm in length..? Japan needs some real regulations on their products, to me it is seems like consumers in Japan often are being mislead by the images on particularly candy boxes, ice cream etc where the content is not clearly visible to the customers..

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring in Kyoto: Ritsumeikan University Orientation Week and Cherry Blossom Hanami!

8:34:00 PM
After having backpacked around Asia for about a month during spring break it was time for a new semester in Kyoto! 
April is the month when the Japanese school year commence, and to celebrate the new semester Ritsumeikan has an annually opening ceremony where all the freshman participate. In addition some also bring their friends and family members, and then of course it is us exchange students as well.
The opening ceremony was held in the Osaka Dome, which is manly used as a baseball stadium.
At the entrance ceremony 
New Ritsumeikan students..!
 Most of the ceremony consisted of speeches from Ritsumeikan's many leaders and representatives. I can imagine that it must have been quite boring for those of us who didn't understand Japanese, since nothing of it was in English, of course. But still, I think the best about the ceremony was just to experience sitting in such a great, big hall with the lights and all the people, and that is not depending on your Japanese knowledges anyway, so..
In the second part of the ceremony it was time for some entertainment, and then mainly from some of the many circles (or activity clubs) at school showing of their talents and their clubs.

And this was really the week for circles at school. Spring had come to Kyoto, and along with the new students came a lot of small stands all over campus where the different activity clubs tried to recruit new members.
One of the arenas where the clubs tried to get new members was through performances at a stage that had been put up for the occasion in the middle of the campus.
Alex getting some information about one of the activity groups at school. 
The Sakura season was about to start too, and the blooming trees at campus made the Kinugasa campus look really nice.
The different activity clubs got the chance to show off their technics and skills.
Some cosplay - girls hanging around
At the end of the first week it was time for a Ritsumeikan welcome dinner, and after that for some Hanami! Hanami is a really popular event around springtime in Japan when the Sakura is in bloom. Hanami is written with the kanji (chinese sign) for flower, 花, and the sign for to see/look at, 見, and as you might have guessed it literary means to look at flowers.
Some friends gathered for Hanami at the shrine Hira no jinja (平野神社) not that far from school.
The cherry blossoms (Sakura) lighted up in the evening.
Other SKP students gathered for hanami.
 And in the upcoming days there were more chances for viewing the beautiful flowers coming up.
In the weekend me and my boyfriend Yuma went back to the Hira no Jinja shrine to take a look at the sakura again, and in addition to the flowers we got some nice entertainment as well.

In the parade we could see people dressed up in clothing representing different areas and time periods in Japan.
Yuma and I (I'm wearing high heels for once, so I look sooo tall haha..)
People sitting under the tree to drink with friends and watch the flowers. 
Sakura again. And not to mention the crowds..!!
The cherry blossoms only lasts for a short period, so it is important to get to see as much as possible while it is still there. To get some more pictures of the flowers I went out with my camera again, and this time it was me and Ericka who went to Arashiyama in the western part of Kyoto to do some exercise and to take some pictures at the same time.
Sunset and sakura
And some sakura close up!
Cherry blossoms and ducks
There's just something really Japanese with this type of scenery, and it is so pretty as well:)
 Unfortunately I guess it won't be too long till the flowers are gone, since they only lasts for a couple of weeks. Better enjoy it while one can;) See you guys later!

Related blogposts

Back to Thailand: Chatuchak Market, Baiyoke Sky Hotel and the end of our trip

2:42:00 PM
After spending a couple of days in Siem Reap it was time to move on, and go back to Bangkok. Our return flight from Bangkok to Osaka was getting closer, and we wanted to spend a couple of days in Bangkok before going back to Japan.

Since we wanted a more comfortable bus ride back to Thailand we decided to go for the more expensive bus to Bangkok, since the staff at the hotel claimed that we would arrive earlier, and that there wouldn´t be a lot of people on the bus so the travelling would be comfortable and crossing the border would be faster as well. So we got up early in the morning waiting for the bus company to come and pick us up. Then we got dropped of outside another hotel where we and some other tourists waited for a while before another car showed up.
In the end me, Adaora, a Chinese girl and a guy from Japan turned out to be the ones who were going with the bus. Though for some reason none of us had seen any bus yet, which we did find a bit strange.
Anyway, the new car drove for a while before the driver suddenly stopped the car and went out. Our patient was already running low since it was early in the morning, and all the waiting was getting on my nerve.
After another 5-10 minutes the driver shows up again with another girl, who turned out to be German, and me Adaora, the Chinese girl and the German girl ended up sitting rather uncomfortably squeezed in the back of the car.

There was still no sign of that comfy bus we was promised though. After a while the German girl got a phone-call from her friends, and they asks her about the trip. Their questions make her ask the driver when we will reach the bus we were supposed to travel with, and the driver answers: “Bus had accident. I take you to border. . Trip take 2 hours”

Back in Bangkok we stayed at my teacher Tiengs place again, and in the evening he took us out for dinner at an outdoor buffet which is very popular among the locals. The food was really great, and we had a good time.

Chatuchak Market
On Sunday me, Adaora and our French friend Lulu went to the Chatuchak weekend market in the north part of town. We had heard that the market would be crammed, so we got up extra early to avoid as many other tourists as possible. Getting there was easy, and the area was huge, so even though not all of the shops were open when we arrived (around 9 o´clock) there was still a lot to see.

A button collection..
The market is actually divided into different areas depending on the stuff they sell, and you can basically find anything here.. 

But there aren´t all the parts of the market that I liked that much. It just hurts me to see dogs caged up like that, and the market actually has a whole area where they sell pets, all of them placed in uncomfortably small cages. It made me feel sick just to watch them like that.
But there was also some entertainment in the market, beside all the tourists and stores. Here is a funny-looking guy who had a little dance-show going on..

He looked veery pretty.. Indeed.. :p

Our last day in Thailand me and Adaora went to the city center again, this time because we wanted to get a view of the city before going back to Japan.
After walking around in the city for a while we ended up in the so-called Baiyoke Sky Hotel, which has an observatory on the upper floors.

In addition to the nice view the Sky Hotel also has some interesting backgrounds and stuff for tourist who likes to fool around taking pictures. And we definitely did.!

We never got the chance to take an air-balloon trip in Cambodia, so this was the closest we got to "the real thing"..
Not to much to say about the weather though, it was pretty bad during our whole stay in Thailand, both the first time and also the second time.
Adaora checking out the view.

The Bangkok Sky Hotel was the last place we went to on our trip. In the evening we left Bangkok again, and this time we were heading for Japan again.
It had been a really nice and funny trip, but at the same time I think we both were happy that the traveling was over for this time. Especially because of all the problems that had occurred in Japan during our one-month long trip we were actually quite excited that we were able to return to Japan at all.
But now it is back to reality and school here in Kyoto. I'm pretty sure I still have a lot of adventures ahead of me here in Kyoto as well, so stay in tuned;)

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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